World stars could miss out as golf returns to Olympics

Special Report, by Liam Headd

Golf is returning to the Olympics for the first time since the St Louis games in 1904, and the new system could see some big-named golfers miss due to the rankings.

Both events (men and women) will have 60 players competing in a 72-hole strokeplay format competition for the gold, silver and bronze medals.

According to the new rules, the 60 competitors taking part will be decided on the Olympic rankings.

The top-15 world-ranked players will be eligible for the Olympics, with a limit of four players from a given country. Beyond the top-15, players will be eligible based on the world rankings, with a maximum of two eligible players from each country that does not already have two or more players among the top-15.

Team GB leader Jamie Spence felt that the golf federation could have been more imaginative about the rules for the games in August.

He said: “I think they could have gone two rounds of stroke play to qualify and then a 16-player match play at the weekend.”

“I would have liked to have seen a gold medal match on the Sunday afternoon and the third- and fourth-place game would actually mean something because they are playing for a medal,” he added.

No other country has more than two players in the top 15 in the official World Golf rankings. As Brazil are the host country for the Olympics, they will be guaranteed at least one male and female golfer, but could get more if they have players within the rankings.

Qualifying for the Olympic Games ends on July 11, and the final Olympic list will be released after that. The opening ceremonies for the Games are scheduled for August 5.

Current world number one Jordon Spieth is looking forward to competing in the summer games.

He said: “Just competing in the Olympics, just walking in the opening ceremony, staying in the village, meeting these incredible athletes from around the world.”

“Winning a gold medal has got to be up there now, in my mind, with winning a major championship. I think this year we’re going to approach it as a fifth major and we’re going to prepare like it is,” he added.

With the United States predominantly dominating golf for many years, the new qualification system could come at a cost as with current rankings, the likes of Zach Johnson (16), Phil Mickleson (20) and Matt Kuchar (26) could fail to represent Team USA.

Did you know?
  • Rory Mcllroy will represent Team Ireland, despite Northern Ireland being part of Great Britain.
  • 77 golfers took part in the 1904 games (74 from USA and three from Canada) and it was George Lyon from Canada who won the gold medal.
  • Louis Oosthuizen, who won the Open Championship in 2010, and formerly played golf at Altrincham Golf Course, will be South Africa number one for the games.

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